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Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival

Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival

4.3 120
by Anderson Cooper

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Few people have witnessed more scenes of chaos and conflict around the world than Anderson Cooper, whose groundbreaking coverage on CNN has changed the way we watch the news.

After growing up on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Cooper felt a magnetic pull toward the unknown. If he could keep moving, and keep exploring, he felt he could stay one step ahead of his past


Few people have witnessed more scenes of chaos and conflict around the world than Anderson Cooper, whose groundbreaking coverage on CNN has changed the way we watch the news.

After growing up on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Cooper felt a magnetic pull toward the unknown. If he could keep moving, and keep exploring, he felt he could stay one step ahead of his past, including the fame surrounding his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, and the tragic early deaths of his father and older brother.

But recently, during the course of one extraordinary, tumultuous year, it became impossible for him to continue to separate his work from his life. From the tsunami in Sri Lanka to the war in Iraq to the starvation in Niger and ultimately to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Mississippi, Cooper gives us a firsthand glimpse of the devastation that takes place. Writing with vivid memories of his childhood and early career as a roving correspondent, Cooper reveals for the first time how deeply affected he has been by the wars, disasters, and tragedies he has witnessed, and why he continues to be drawn to some of the most perilous places on earth.

Striking, heartfelt, and utterly engrossing, Dispatches from the Edge is an unforgettable memoir that takes us behind the scenes of the cataclysmic events of our age and allows us to see them through the eyes of one of America's most trusted, fearless, and pioneering reporters.

Editorial Reviews

“Cooper weaves his experiences at CNN into a moving memoir.”
USA Today
“Powerful. . . . Packs a visceral punch. . . . Cooper opens a tantalizing window into his own soul.”
“Cooper is a storyteller with plenty of heart. . . . A smart, soulful pageturner.”
Writing with the same emotional intensity that distinguishes his news broadcasts, CNN journalist Anderson Cooper describes his powerful personal reaction to the tragic events of 2005 -- a year that brought a tsunami to Asia, escalating violence to Iraq, famine to Africa, and two devastating hurricanes to the United States.
Publishers Weekly
Most listeners will already be familiar with Anderson Cooper's dangerous field reporting on CNN. While this autobiography is heavy with those tales of wars and natural disasters, it is also rife with a surprising number of very personal incidents and revelations. His straightforward reading of his on-camera adventures is clear and engaging. But what keeps this reading from being great is his detachment. Perhaps because he has spent his professional life trying to be objective in his role as a journalist (although it could be argued that he became a media star when that facade cracked during his coverage of Hurricane Katrina) the more personal bits of the book are spoken with a level of distance that doesn't quite match up with the subject matter, especially when dealing with such delicate personal issues as his feelings concerning the suicide of his brother. Anderson is a sensational writer and reporter, but this mixture of public and private dispatches would have more power if he'd let his professional persona slip more. Simultaneous release with the HarperCollins hardcover (Reviews, May 8). (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
People Magazine
"Cooper is a storyteller with plenty of heart. . . . A smart, soulful pageturner."

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Dispatches from the Edge

A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival
By Anderson Cooper

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Anderson Cooper
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0061132381

Chapter One


Washed Away

Small waves, one after the other, lap the shore. Two Sri Lankan villagers walk along the water's edge, searching for bodies washed up by the tide. They come every morning, leave without answers. Some days they find nothing. Today there's a torn shoe and a piece of broken fence.

I'm standing in a pile of rubble. Beneath me the ground seems to move, twisting and turning in on itself. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. The ground isn't moving at all. It's maggots, thousands of them. Writhing, squirming, they feast on some unseen flesh. Nearby, a dog with low-hanging teats and a face smeared with blood scavenges for scraps. She steps carefully among scattered bricks, tourist snapshots, china plates, the flotsam and jetsam of life before the wave.

It took centuries for the pressure to build. Subtle shifts, grinding force. Long ago, a thousand miles east of Sri Lanka, more than fifteen miles below the surface of the Indian Ocean, two gigantic shelves of rock, tectonic plates, pressed against each other -- the rim of what scientists call the India Plate began to push underneath the Burma Plate. Something had to give. At nearlyone minute before 8:00 A.M., the morning after Christmas, 2004, the force of the compression explodes along a section of rock some one hundred miles off the west coast of Sumatra. A fault line more than seven hundred miles long violently rips open and a shelf of rock and sediment thrusts upward fifty feet, unleashing an explosion of energy so powerful it alters the rotation of the earth. It is one of the strongest earthquakes in recorded history.

Shock waves pulse in all directions, displacing millions of tons of water, creating giant undersea waves. A tsunami. A ship on the surface of the sea would barely have noticed, detecting perhaps some slight swells no more than two feet high. But underneath, out of sight, churning walls of water extend from the ocean's bottom to the surface, pushing outward. The water moves fast, five hundred miles per hour -- the speed of a commercial jetliner.

It takes eight minutes after the earthquake begins for the sonic signals to reach the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, in Hawaii. The thin needle of a seismograph suddenly springs to life, rapidly scribbling side to side, signaling an alarm. It's already too late. Eight minutes later, at approximately 8:15 A.M., in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, the first of several massive walls of water explodes onto shore. In the next two hours, tsunami waves strike ten other countries. More than two hundred thousand people will die.

In New York, 2005 begins in a blizzard. A hurricane of confetti and light. At the stroke of midnight, I'm standing on a platform in the center of Times Square. I'm about sixty feet off the ground, and below, on the streets all around me, are people -- hundreds of thousands of revelers packed shoulder to shoulder behind barricades set up by police. The crowd is cheering. I see their mouths are open, their hands waving in the air, but I can't hear them. Both my ears are plugged with wireless headphones connecting me to a control room several blocks away. I hear only the hiss of the satellite transmission and a thin pulse of blood throbbing in my ears.

It's a strange way to start 2005. We've been covering the tsunami around the clock this week, and each day brings new details, new horrors. There's been talk of canceling the celebrations, but in the end it's decided that the show will go on.

I've always hated New Year's Eve. When I was ten, I lay on the floor of my room with my brother, watching on TV as the crowd in Times Square counted down the remaining seconds of 1977. My father was in the intensive care unit at New York Hospital. He'd had a series of heart attacks, and in a few days would undergo bypass surgery. My brother and I were terrified, but too scared to speak with each other about it. We watched, silent, numb, as the giant crystal ball made its slow descent. It all seemed so frightening: the screaming crowds, the frigid air, not knowing if our father would live through the new year.

I grew up in New York but never went to see the ball drop until I volunteered to cover it for CNN. For most New Yorkers, the idea of going anywhere near Times Square on New Year's Eve is inconceivable. It's like eating at Tavern On The Green; the food may be tasty, but it's best left to out-of-towners.

I've always thought that New Year's Eve is proof that human beings are essentially optimistic creatures. Despite hundreds of years of pathetic parties and hellish hangovers, we continue to cling to the notion that it's possible to have fun on that night. It's not. There's too much pressure, too many expectations, too few bathrooms.

The truth is, I began volunteering to work on New Year's Eve as a way to avoid having to do something social. This is my second time covering the Times Square festivities, and I've actually begun to enjoy it. There aren't many opportunities in this city to feel part of a community. We scuttle about the streets each day, individual atoms occasionally running into one another but rarely coalescing to form a whole. In Times Square, however, as the ball descends and the crowd cheers, New York becomes a very different place, a place of pure feeling.

When midnight arrives, the air explodes into a solid mass, a swirl of colored confetti that seems to hang suspended in space. For several minutes I am not expected to say anything. The pictures take over. The cameras pan the streets, wide shots and close-ups; people sing and shout. I take the headphones out of my ears and am surrounded by the waves of sound. The air seems to shake, and for . . .


Excerpted from Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper Copyright © 2006 by Anderson Cooper. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Anderson Cooper is the anchor of Anderson Cooper 360° on CNN and a correspondent for CBS’s 60 Minutes. He has won numerous journalism awards and nine Emmys, and his first book, Dispatches from the Edge, was a number one New York Times bestseller. He lives in New York City.

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Dispatches from the Edge 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 120 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. There was many a sleepless night trying to read this book. Anderson Cooper is a fabulous anchor and reporter from CNN and CBS and this book is just another one to add to his many accomplishments. It's well written and you feel either like you sitting right there like he's telling you his stories or like you're experiencing them with him. It's also a nice open up to his more personal side without going too far. I feel like I know my favorite reporter better and this book makes me love him even more. Good job Anderson!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in about 3 days, I litterally could not put it down. While some might say the content is depressing and a bit of a 'downer' I find it refreshing that someone in the public eye can be so candid, and honsetly there were many passages that I related to 100% I think his story challenged the reader to step out of their comfort zones and acknowledge that the world is so much bigger than the little boxes we choose to stay in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was well written, very honest and showed great insight into death, suicide, and the difficulty dealing with the harsh world we live in today.
Carol-Ann-3 More than 1 year ago
I have not written a book review in over 60 yrs. Reading this book made me realize that the "non fiction " world is wide open. That is my goal. Thank you Anderson Cooper. Carolyn McM
Jeneveve More than 1 year ago
Brilliantly written, impossible to put down, emotional and honest.... I strongly recommend this book. I remember watching Anderson on Channel One News and continue to admire his work on CNN. This book strengthened my respect for him and his work.
LadyLit06 More than 1 year ago
To be honest this genre isn't my usual cup of tea, but I am a fan of his show so I picked it up anyways. I'm so glad I did because once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. It was interesting to see these natural disasters and war torn countries from his perspective, without the censorship of a video camera. The way he weaves stories of his personal life into his professional experiences makes for an emotionally gripping biography. We all deal with death differently, and I don't think it was depressing at all, just insightful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book .. sounds just like Anderson Cooper talking to you. Many inside stories with a lot of detail from the front line. Super - highly recommend this read.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I can't get enough of Anderson Cooper
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very raw and honest. The conversation was very touching. I cried at the end.
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I think it's safe to say that Anderson Cooper can write as well as newscast. I found this book in the library and did not look up until I had finished it. The subject matter was interesting, even if the time bounced around a lot. However, even though I liked the writing, the tense changed a lot, which I was not such a fan of. While Anderson has discussed the deaths of his father and brother on his talk show, this book definitely gave a more quiet, personal side to his feelings. I did notice the lack of inclusion of 9/11. Anderson has frequently stated that 9/11 was the reason he went beck to being a war correspondant, so I wondered why it wasn't at least mentioned. But I understand why it was not a bigger part of the book. The stories in the memoir were of things he had witnessed, and I don't think Anderson covered much news about 9/11. Also, it is highly plausible that 9/11 did not have a large effect on Anderson. I lived in Brooklyn at the time, and although 9/11 was horrifying, I was not affected much. All in all, I enjoyed this memoir and would recommend it.
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